In the Hot Corner with Alberto (II)

By Osmel Amaguer

I think our baseball specialists need to be brought up to date.

Top playerrs are overworked and not given the necessary time for rest and recovery. As such, they are more vulnerable to injuries.  A good example of this is the darling of Havana, Industriales, went almost the entire 2008-2009 season with 80% of its players injured.

Another problem is immigration to developed countries, with most basegall players going to the United States.  The country with the strongest baseball league in the world, promises its players a life without the material limitations that the majority of Cuban athletes have to deal with.

Although the reality is that not everyone “goes, sees and “conquers” like the roman emperor.  The majority never makes it to the big leagues and many never even get the chance to play.

But not all the problems can be blamed on this aspect.  Other problems affecting Cuban baseball are poor scouting and talent recruitment; a shortage of fields and basic equipment such as balls, gloves and bats; and corruption and nepotism in player selection.

On top of all this is the 19 years of the Special Period during which a whole generation -despite what is often said- has grown up with less then optimal diets.  This explains why today there few pitchers with great fastballs, or strong batters; and the majority of players who make it, are not properly valued and their talent is lost, as in the case of Albert.

I think our specialists also need to be brought up to date.  It seems that we are still playing in the 1980s, when our teams -with better players than today- played against teams made up almost entirely of young amateurs, which is not the case today.

It’s a fact that batters here who hit 25 to 30 homeruns in a 90-game season (equivalent to 45 to 54 in the Big Leagues) do so against weak pitchers, with a strike zone that is much smaller then abroad, forcing pitchers to throw down the middle, perfect for homeruns.

This is why, in important international competitions, Cuban batters can’t hit even against Italian pitchers, as happened in the recently concluded Italian Baseball Week.  In the Baseball World Cup that just got underway -a tournament that doesn’t feature the world’s top players-, Cuba is in its familiar role as the favorite.

But beware. I don’t think Cuban baseball has reached rock bottom yet and this tournament could have some nasty surprises in store.